The arrest of fugitive Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) member, Thabang Phaila, after he skipped the country 15 years ago and subsequently returned hoping that the coalition government’s amnesty had secured his freedom, has exposed the increasing signs of discord within the highest ranks of decision-makers.
Minister of Correctional Services and Law Mophato Monyake this week told the Lesotho Times that prior to Phaila’s homecoming, his family had approached the Minister asking him to guarantee the runaway soldier would not be arrested when he lands in Lesotho.
Monyake said that his office wrote letters to the LDF Commander, Commissioner of Police and Director of the National Security Services (NSS) informing them of Phaila’s intention to come home after 15 years in exile and “seeking protection for him”.
The minister also revealed that after Phaila’s return to Lesotho, LDF Commander Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli had paid him a visit to inform him that he (Phaila) was one of his soldiers and that the military had been “looking for him for years”.
Monyake told Lieutenant General Kamoli that because he had been working on Phaila’s case with his family and had assured them that nothing would happen to him, he now had to consult with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
In his turn, Thabane reportedly told Monyake that “he would deal with the matter”.
Monyake says he was therefore surprised when he learnt that Phaila had been arrested.
Monyake has not heard from his boss since on the matter.
This is all emerging after Monyake, Thabane and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) all gave us conflicting reports on the alleged arrest of notorious criminal Lehlohonolo Scott.
This all raises serious questions about coherence in the government. It seems the right hand does not know what the left is holding.
We are not saying there shouldn’t be disagreements in government. After all differences are the hallmark of any democracy.
But on issues of national security and significance, the government must learn to proffer one position.
Ministers must sing from the same song sheet.
Signs of dissonance in the coalition government first emerged over the Scott issue. Nothing has since been done to clarify the exact position to Basotho, with everyone sticking to their claims.
The Scott incident left the nation in sixes and sevens.
The question until now is: Who should people believe? But more importantly, if ministers cannot speak with one voice over issues on which there shouldn’t be prolonged differences, what about the other greater business of government which needs united action to advance the economic interests of this country.
Thabane must stamp his authority and ensure that the nation gets clarity on issues in which ministers would have issued differing viewpoints.
The nagging question is: On which other issues is the cabinet divided?
Such lack of coherence has a bearing on the overall performance of the government.
The coalition government does not have much time within which to put right a whole host of long-standing problems.
On the entire economic front alone there are several crises staring the country’s immediate future.
The country has the scourge of the HIV/Aids pandemic, with the attendant orphan problem hanging around its neck like an albatross.
Put on top of this you have an ever-swelling army of unemployed but fairly educated youths.
The dependency on Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) revenue, traditionally accounting for up to about a third of the country’s national budget, is now under serious threat after South Africa raised concerns that it cannot remain the union’s M40 billion benefactor forever.
South Africa’s payments to Sacu currently amount to M48.3 billion annually — a substantial amount, considering the regional economic giant’s budget deficit is presently M146.9-billion, an estimated 4.5 percent of gross domestic product.
If cabinet ministers differ on simple issues that should not drag along without clarity, where will they ever get the time to sit down and formulate the right policies to tackle the myriad of problems saddling this poor Kingdom.
Not only that but also ensure united action to tackle these problems?